In a recent survey CIPD reported that as many as 78% of UK organisations have experienced difficulties in attracting the right candidates in recruitment during the last year. This is not confined to niche areas of emergent expertise; it includes construction workers, retail, hospitality and health care in general. UK unemployment levels are falling and wage inflation is at its highest since 2011. In the public sector, the NHS in England has run up a bill of £1.8 billion in the last year on agency staff and has accused suppliers of “ripping off” the NHS . Attracting and retaining the right people is starting to become a critical issue for many organisations in both public and private sectors.

Is it inevitable that every organisation will fall prey to harsh realities in the labour market that are surfacing as the UK economy grows? In our view, for those organisations that don’t have at least some form of planning for a sustainable future workforce, the answer is a resounding “yes”. From our analysis, the factors driving people towards agency work are real, present and increasing.

At first sight, the problem of agency staff is simply that too much money is “wasted” on expensive locum medical staff and temporary nursing and care staff. One approach is to use the collective procurement power of public sector organisations to drive down costs and bring back common sense to a chaotic labour market. But is it really that simple…?

There are two sides to a market: supply and demand, neither of which are fixed and neither of which are fully under the control of the buyer or the commissioners of health services.

As we think through the wider issue of temporary staff, a number of questions have occurred to us that we think will inform the debate around planning process, questions that reveal the advantages of taking a “whole systems” approach:

  • Is it always wrong to use temporary staff? If not, what are the exceptions and how should they be governed and managed?
  • How much budget should we realistically allocate to such exceptions?
  • What is the future demand on the services which require the most temporary staff? How is it going to change?
  • What is it about agency work that attracts people that may otherwise wish to work on a permanent basis? What factors are driving this?
  • What can be done to make roles and organisations more attractive?
  • What influence do we have on supply into the market? Are there enough people in the market with the knowledge and skills we need?

We will be exploring and similar questions over the coming months in the form of blogs. If you would like to receive further blogs and participate in the conversation, why not contact us via up. Alternatively email our Business Administrator, Emma Engstrom, at or visit our LinkedIn page.


 “Survey Report: Resourcing and Talent Planning 2015” – CIPD

 ”UK Labour Market, June 2015” – Office for National Statistics

 ‘NHS to target ‘rip-off’ staffing agencies” – BBC News 31st May 2015